San Quentin prison guard, 2 others charged in attempt to smuggle cell phones into death row

Bay Area

FILE – This July 9, 2020, file photo shows a correctional officer closing the main gate at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. California is giving more than 100,000 state inmates earlier release dates in its latest response to the pandemic, building on earlier steps that together could free nearly 10% of prisoners as Gov. Gavin Newsom responds to intensifying pressure from advocates, lawmakers and federal judges. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – A corrections officer at San Quentin State Prison and two others are facing charges in connection to smuggling cell phones into death row, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

On Wednesday, the correctional officer, 37-year-old Keith Christopher of Pittsburg, and 32-year-old Isaiah Wells of Tracy, appeared in federal court.

On Thursday, the third co-defendant, 45-year-old Tanisa Smith-Symes of Las Vegas, will appear in federal court in Las Vegas — That is where she was arrested on Wednesday.

The complaint alleges that the three ‘conspired to smuggle cell phones into San Quentin State Prison’s East Block, where condemned inmates are housed.’

Inmates are not allowed to have cell phones in their possession under state law as they are a safety and security risk for employees and inmates in the prison.

According to the complaint, Smith-Symes had a relationship with a Death Row inmate. They worked to smuggle phones and send them to Wells, who then gave them to Christopher, who then brought them into the prison.

At least 25 phones were successfully smuggled into the prison and the Death Row inmate was able to sell them for up to $900 each, the complaint alleges. It says that Smith-Symes bribed Christopher with money and sent it through Wells and others.

Christopher also allegedly charged $500 for each phone.

The three defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud using interstate wires. That is a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, in addition to a $250,000 fine.

On Wednesday after appearing in court, Christopher and Wells were released on bond and are scheduled to appear in court on September 17.

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